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San Blas adventures

PANAMA | Sunday, 4 May 2014 | Views [805] | Comments [2] | Scholarship Entry

Choosing to sail from Portobelo (Panama) to Capurgana (Colombia) seemed the obvious choice for somebody who, like me, grew up on a beautiful mediterranean island and regularly points out her love of the sea and of “anything water.” After all, don’t I always get on those zodiacs; cruise from beach to beach; jump in the sea whenever I can; snorkel; try out any possible water sport? So, I found a suitable boat that at a reasonable price would allow me to experience the beauty of San Blas, the adventure of being on a boat for 5 days, and would conveniently take me to another country. Little did I know that this would end up being an unforgettable experience, but for few of the reasons I expected.

Shortly after getting on the sailboat, when it was still anchored in the bay of Portobelo, the first spouts of seasickness appeared. “No big deal,” I thought, as I took my first dramamine and went to sleep on a tight, wet bed; “I will get used to it, and besides, I am used to being on boats.” Sure enough, the morning after I felt better, and was overjoyed as the boat started sailing. My happiness turned into terror when we left the bay and started sailing the Atlantic ocean. Waves, waves all over. Waves that would rock that slow moving boat up and down, left and right. That’s how I got to spend 12 solid hours sitting on the very same spot, barely moving, refusing to eat anything, popping down dramamine pills to find a bit of relief from the nausea, peeing in the helm hole as going inside to use the toilet would mean sure death by nausea.

Despite the encouragement from fellow sailers to remain on board, I thought it best to get off as soon as we’d reach Porvenir, the first island of the San Blas Archipelago. As the dingy that was taking me to land risked drowning several times, all I could think of was that land was close, seasickness would be over soon, and I was glad to have carried a tent with me. Indeed, as the only two hotels on the island were full, placing that tent under the palm trees, almost right on the beach, using a flashlight for illumination, was the only solution; although it required much negotiation with the leader of the Kuna Yala community and chief of the island who were not keen on having intruders on their protected land.

That’s how I ended up sleeping alone, in a tent, under the tropical rain of San Blas, and I was woken up before sunrise by the sound of the sea. That’s how I got to see one of the most amazing sunrises ever seen.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip



How did you find boat that only traveled from Portobello to Capurgana? I am looking to sail this same rout but almost everyone I find online goes to Cartagena.

  Drew Aug 27, 2014 8:56 AM


Actually most companies now only go to Capurgana. I just searched the web - look for I travel by boat or Skip the Darien Gap - they are two of the best companies :)

  Claudia Aug 27, 2014 11:52 PM

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